Brewers Are The New Rising Stars
Most foodies swoon over creative dishes (think: anything prepared sous-vide) and believe that they pair well with wines and cocktails. After all, those are the drinks meriting white tablecloths or restaurants bedecked in reclaimed wood and exposed brick in urban industrial districts, right? But Antoinette Bruno is no garden-variety food-o-phile. She’s the CEO of StarChefs.com, an online culinary magazine accustomed to praising “top chefs, pastry chefs, sommeliers, and mixologists” including by recognizing “Rising Stars” in various metropolises. Bruno formerly found herself in that wine-and-cocktails-only camp, but repeat visits to Portland opened her eyes and tastebuds.
“Coffee, beer, and spirits were new and a personal challenge for me. While no stranger to wine and mixology, beer and coffee were something I avoided,” said Bruno. Quaffing her way across Beervana—no easy task yet not unpleasant either—awakened her to the fact that, “Portland has become a breeding ground for creative beverage making at its best.”
Beer lovers have long known what even the most respected voices in the culinary industry are still discovering, which is that beer is as great an accompaniment to gourmet grub as wine and cocktails (and often times even better, as theorized in Garrett Oliver’s The Brewmaster’s Table).
StarChefs produces gala events in four US cities each year, not just bestowing awards to “Rising Stars” but allowing guests to sample signature dishes and a variety of artisan beverages to wash ‘em down. The small plates at the Portland event featured: Coffee-smoked Australian short ribs with a bruschetta tomato and polenta (my personal fave); Maple-glazed pork belly with turnips, sour cherry chutney, and fried shallots; and Foie gras profiteroles with caramel sauce and sea salt (whether it was a sweet appetizer or a goose-infused dessert I don’t know and don’t care!).
As for the new Best Brewer award, Bruno and Co. certainly did their homework. Just as there are too many worthy chefs and bakers to choose from in these parts, ditto that for brewmasters. The award bypassed brewers at Cascade (which floored Bruno by introducing her to sour beers), Hair of the Dog, Upright, and Ben Love who just left Hopworks Urban Brewery to launch the forthcoming Gigantic Brewing Co. Bryan Keilty from Lompoc wowed the judges with his barrel-aged beers (Lompoc has tapped 10… TEN! holiday beers this year many of which aged in barrels). And yes, they all would pair amazingly with fois gras profiteroles.